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Vegan candy is made without any ingredients that are derived from animals, including any type of milk or dairy product, gelatin, butter, lard, or insect-derived food coloring.
Candies that are vegan use alternatives for the animal-derived (non-vegan) ingredient called gelatin. Gelatin is a common additive in candies that is made from animal collagen, which is a type of protein found in animal and human skin, connective tissue, ligaments and bones. Gelatin that is used in food products is usually derived from pigs or cattle. Adding gelatin to recipes helps form a gel-like consistency that gives candy, and some desserts like Jell-O or custard, a chewy and silky texture. It’s also used as a thickener, binder and stabilizer in many other processed foods besides candy — including confectionary snacks, cakes, wine, fruit juice, and some meat or meat-alternative products (that are not vegan). Even though these types of highly processed foods are certainly not very healthy, gelatin itself is not a harmful ingredient. In fact, gelatin has many benefits, such as providing amino acids like glycine, strengthening the gut lining, improving digestive health, restoring joint health and improving the condition of the skin. That being said, you still might choose to avoid all sources of gelatin for other reasons, such as due to ethical or environmental concerns.
Besides gelatin and milk/cream, there are other animal-derived ingredients found in certain candies that are not vegan.